The 3 'S' Techniques to Excelling in A-Level Economics Essays

The following article is contributed by our Principal Economics Tutor, Mr S.F. Koh.


It is not uncommon to hear students exasperatedly complain that while they understand the Economic concepts, they are unable to score well for their essays. Some learning centres attempt to bridge the gap between knowledge and performance by doing as many past year questions from the A-Level and JC examinations as possible, hoping that when it comes to the real thing, one of the questions would be similar to those they had gone through before, and students could just regurgitate the memorised answer. This is not an optimal method because 1) what if none of the questions were correctly spotted; and 2) this ‘skill’ is not transferrable to other subjects.

Based on a more than 20-year experience in teaching JC Economics, I have developed a 3 ‘S’ techniques to help my students overcome this problem. It comprises 3 skills that must be applied in a hierarchical order: Schematic Planning, Structuring, and

(1) Schematic Planning

It is important for students to develop a good schematic plan in relation to the question. This requires the recognition of the directive word used, the context of the question, as well as the phrasing of the question. Taking these into account, students would then develop the 3 main points of the answer. For example, when asked to “Discuss”, the 3 main points should include 1 main point in agreement to the proposition and 2 other points to counter the proposition. But if asked to “Assess”, then all 3 main points can also be in agreement with the proposition, but to varying degrees.

Next, students need to align their answer to the phrasing of the question. Take for example the following question:

“Discuss if product differentiation strategies are the best way to help small firms return to profitability.”

Because “best” was used, students have to provide alternative ways, first by explaining how product differentiation can help firms increase profits, and the 2 counter arguments would be cost strategies and other methods used to increase revenue.

If however, the question was:

“Discuss the extent to which product differentiation can help small firms return to profitability.”

Then, the thesis is the same as above but the anti-thesis will be the main limitation of the strategy, and not alternate strategies.

Lastly, the students have to take note the context is for small firms and carefully avoid discussing strategies that small firms cannot use.

(2) Structuring

After developing a good schematic plan, students must explain each of the main point such that it includes all the relevant concepts written in a correct order. This is the skill of structuring. Students must be able to identify main question types in each main topic and then apply the taught structure to each essay type. Through repeated practices, students will become more competent in using the various structures according to the question requirements.


For each essay structure, there will be several steps through which the point is analysed and explained, with relevant concepts applied in each step. However, this is not all that is needed. Each point has to be elaborated by having a Statement, then an Explanation with clarifying Examples.

Taken together, these skills will help students develop confidence and competence in essay writing. Students are able todissect their low-scoring answers to know which skill set they are weak in, and focus their efforts on improving this area, by purposely choosing practices that target the specific skill. By using the 3 ‘S’ techniques, they will definitely be able to produce essays that will give them the scores that they have always dreamed of.


Join our JC1 and JC2 H2 Economics classes taught by Mr Koh! With more than 20 years of teaching experience in a top JC as its HOD, Mr Koh has a track record of more than 80% distinction rate for all the students he has ever taught in his illustrious career.

Call us at 6264 2236 or 9661 9760 to find out more!

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